You are hereNonviolent Resistance
Interview by Dave Lindorff
As Syrian expatriate Dr. Rim Turkmani was watching President Barack Obama give his brief nationally televised address to the American people and the people of the world last night, she says she had two contradictory feelings. “I felt good that it was not a war speech,” says this British-based member of the political office of an organization called The Syrian State Current, a movement that is seeking non-violent democratic change in Syria. “But what upset me was his repeated referring to what is happening in Syria as a ‘civil war.’ There is an element of civil war in the violence in Syria, but more importantly it is a proxy war between the US and Russia, and it has to be acknowledged that the US and Russia are the key players.”
By Brian Terrell
On May 23, President Obama gave a major address from the National Defense University, ON THE FUTURE OF OUR FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM, in which he acknowledged for the first time the US government’s still officially secret program of assassination by remotely controlled drones. I was able to watch this televised speech from the privileged vantage of a federal prison on the last day of a sentence resulting from my protest of drones lethally operated from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri over various countries around the world.
Over the previous six months in the Federal Prison Camp at Yankton, South Dakota, I had watched from afar as the discussion on drone warfare emerged from the fringe and into the mainstream. Fellow prisoners brought me clippings on the subject from their local newspapers and kept me apprised of what they heard on the evening news. The American people seemed to be just awakening to the reality and consequences of wars being fought and assassinations carried out by unmanned but heavily armed planes controlled by combatants sitting at computer screens at stateside bases far from the conflict.
My own anti-drone activism began with protests at Creech Air Force Base in the Nevada desert in April, 2009. Even some otherwise well informed people were skeptical, back then, that such things were even possible, much less happening daily. Many who were aware accepted the simple and happy narrative of drone warfare as a precise new high-tech system in which soldiers from a safe distance of thousands of miles can pin point those who mean us imminent harm with little or no collateral damage.
Even some among our friends in the peace movement questioned the wisdom of focusing attention on drones. Must we protest every new advance in weaponry? Can’t we allow for methods that are at least improvements on indiscriminate carnage? Is not a precisely aimed and delivered drone attack preferable to carpet bombing? Is it not preferable to invasion? Does it make a difference to the victims, in any case, whether there is a pilot in the plane that bombs them or not?
The fact that four years later on the day before my release from prison, the president of the United States was defending the use of drones before the country and the world is truly remarkable. This is not a discussion that he or anyone else in the government, politics or the military encouraged or one that the media was anxious to take on. The fact that the issue is up for discussion at all is due to considerable efforts of the few here in the US and the UK in solidarity with many in the streets in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan protesting this foul weaponry. Communities of protest and resistance in Nevada, New York, California, Missouri, Wisconsin, England and Iowa thrust the issue into local forums, courts and media through creative actions and legal stratagems, effectively demanding that grievance over drone killing be heard. The president’s own speech was itself only rescued from being the cleverly constructed but empty litany of alibi, half-truth and obfuscation that it was intended to be by the interruption by our friend, Medea Benjamin.
In his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., noted that often a society like ours “bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue,” requires “nonviolent gadflies” in order to “create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal.”
As with the issue of segregation 50 years ago, so today the parameters of discussion allowed by politeness and good manners or sanctioned by the police and courts simply cannot abide the objective appraisal of drone warfare that the times require. Such as it is, the discussion is made possible only by some who dare speak out of turn, as Medea, or who use their bodies to intrude on the orderly commission of criminalities in our midst. Before the president’s lecture drone warfare’s approval rating was at the top of the polls but a month later drone pilot Col. Bryan Davis of the Ohio Air National Guard noted a turn of the tide. “We are not popular among the American public, every other base has been protested,” he lamented to a local paper. “It doesn’t make you feel warm inside.”
The narrative of humanitarian war via drone had begun to unravel in the public eye in the months leading up to the president’s speech and has since fallen further into disrepute. Months before the president made the assertion in his May 23 speech that “by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life,” his administration had already revised earlier claims that the drone programs in Yemen and Pakistan had yielded zero known noncombatant deaths to one death to finally admitting to a death toll in “single digits.” By almost any accounting the noncombatant tolls in those countries have been at least in the hundreds.
Just weeks after the president spoke at the National Defense University, a journal published by that institution published a study that debunked his assurance that “conventional airpower and missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.” Drone strikes in Afghanistan, the study found, were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.”
Another assurance given in this speech, that “America cannot take strikes wherever we choose; our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty,” was discredited on June 8 when the US ambassador to Pakistan was summoned by the prime minister of that country angry over a US drone attack that killed nine people. “It was conveyed to the US chargé ď affaires that the government of Pakistan strongly condemns the drone strikes, which are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs. “The importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes was emphasized.”
“We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people.” Formerly the word “imminent” referred to something about to happen at any moment and using the generally accepted definition of the word one might construe in the president’s words a guarantee that drone strikes are used only to stop “terrorists” engaged in acts that would cause immediate harm to Americans. John Brennan, now director of the CIA, suggested in September 2011 that “a more flexible understanding of ‘imminence’ may be appropriate when dealing with terrorist groups.” This more flexible understanding of imminence justifies the assassination not only of those caught in the act, but also of targets who are suspected of having written something or said something to make someone think that they might have something to do with an attack on the US someday. A person who is caught on the drone’s video feed from 7,000 miles away as acting in a manner consistent with someone who might harm one day may now be eliminated as an imminent threat.
Referring to the killing of Anwar Awlaki, an American citizen in Yemen, the president assured us that “for the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any US citizen -- with a drone, or with a shotgun -- without due process.” The general usage of the words “due process” would cause the misapprehension that the right of a citizen to have trial by jury before being executed is being reaffirmed here. “This is simply not accurate,” says Attorney General Eric Holder. “‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” The burden of “due process” can now be met when the president decides based on secret evidence that a citizen should die.
Drone technology is changing our language beyond redefining terms like “imminence” and “due process.” We have progressed, too, beyond Orwellian euphemisms such as naming an intercontinental nuclear missile “Peacekeeper.” These new “hunter-killer platforms” bear names like “Predators” and “Reapers” and may soon be supplanted by “Avengers” and “Stalkers.” The ordinance they deliver is a missile named “Hellfire.”
In Iowa where I live, the Air National Guard unit based in Des Moines has replaced its F-16 fighter planes with a Reaper drone control center. This transformation was marked by changing the unit’s name from the “132nd Fighter Wing” to the “132nd Attack Wing.” This change is more than symbolic- a “fight” by definition has two sides and the word implies some kind of parity. There is such a thing as a fair fight (of course the 132nd’s F-16s were used only on all but disarmed populations in places like Iraq and Panama) and a fight usually has some kind of resolution. An “attack” however, is just that. An attack is one-sided, something that a perpetrator inflicts on a victim. A fighter might sometimes be justified, an attacker, never. There is no “just attack” theory. The parsing out of innocent and guilty drone victims is in a sense a waste of time. All alike are victims.
George Kennan, might have seen this coming in a policy paper he wrote for the State Department in 1948. In order to preserve the global disparity of wealth post World War II (“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population”) he suggested that “we should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.” While the speech at the National Defense University was an embarrassment of idealistic slogans, it also used chilling pragmatism to deal with straight power concepts.
“For me,” the president said on May 23, “and those in my chain of command, those deaths will haunt us as long as we live.” Those words had a truer ring a few days later spoken on NBC news by Brandon Bryant, an Air Force drone operator who confessed to being haunted by 1,600 deaths he took part in. Bryant admitted that his actions made him feel like a “heartless sociopath,” and he described one of his first kills, sitting in a chair at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada when his team fired on three men walking down a road in Afghanistan. It was night in Afghanistan, and he remembers watching the thermal image of one victim on his computer screen: “I watch this guy bleed out and, I mean, the blood is hot.” Bryant watched the man die and his image disappear as his body attained the ambient temperature of the ground. “I can see every little pixel, if I just close my eyes.” The remoteness of the drone warrior is no protection from the moral damage of war, and these people are victims as well, and it is on their behalf as well that we protest.
We cannot know the hearts of President Obama and those in his inner circle but it is not hard to wonder whether they are truly haunted by the deaths of those killed by drones at their commands. If they may not be haunted by their own consciences, perhaps the responsibility of haunting them falls to us.
Brian Terrell is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, www.vcnv.org, and lives on a Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa
My four friends and I were sentenced today to ten hours each of community service by the judge who convicted us last month of trespassing onto Beale Air Force Base during an anti-drone protest. Judge Carolyn K. Delaney in U.S. District Court in Sacramento acknowledged that we were motivated by conscience and by “deeply held ethical and religious beliefs.” We were delighted with the light sentence, which sets a precedent for other protesters. The judge could have imposed up to six months in jail, a $5,000 fine, and/or five years probation.
Shirley Osgood, Janie Kesselman, David and Jan Hartsough and I had engaged in civil disobedience by crossing a line onto Beale Air Force Base last October during a demonstration against the U.S. drone warfare program. Global Hawk surveillance drones, based at Beale, assist in finding targets for weaponized drones. Here is the statement I made in court today:
Sharon Delgado’s Statement at Sentencing
Judge, although you did not allow us to use the necessity defense or to appeal to international law or to use expert witnesses, the facts are still there. My faith compelled me to act, and I’m willing to accept the consequences.
We stepped onto Beale property because of conscience. US drones are killing people, including children. US drones are creating enemies who will want to take revenge. US drones are not making us more secure, but less secure. By acting outside of international law we are making the world a more dangerous place.
The classic metaphor when talking about the necessity defense is the image of a house on fire. There’s a house on fire, with a child crying from the window and a No Trespassing sign on the door. What is the right thing to do in such a situation? Can a person ignore the sign and enter the house in order to save the child? That’s what we’re talking about here.
In 2011, Brian Terrell was arrested with 14 others for protesting drones at Creech Air Force Base. At their trial, Brian said, “The house is on fire. And we fourteen are ones who have seen the smoke from the fire and heard the cries of the children. We cannot be deterred by a No Trespassing sign from going to the burning children.”
People are dying. The house is burning. We crossed the line at Beale to try to stop the conflagration and keep it from spreading. We were obeying a higher law.
Judge, I am non-repentant. I do not regret standing in front of the gate at Beale and holding our sign. I think our action was a success. More people are talking about the drone program than they were before this action. I would do it again. In fact, I encourage others to take action, including nonviolent direct action, to interfere with the U.S. drone program and to stop the most recent rush to war.
I will not pay a fine, but I will gladly go to jail or accept community service. My faith compelled me to act, and I’m willing to accept the consequences.
Previous blogs that give an in-depth account of this case can and of the harm caused by drone warfare can be found at Sharon Delgado’s blog. The statements of the other defendants will be posted there over the next few days.
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Cross-Posted from FireDogLake
On September 9, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director David Petraeus -- who also formerly headed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) International Security Assistance Force for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and co-wrote the Counterinsurgency Field Manual -- began a new job as an adjunct professor at City University of New York (CUNY) Macaulay Honors College.
David Hartsough’s statement at sentencing Sept 9 for his nonviolent protest against Drones at Beale Air Force Base
David was arrested along with eight others blocking two entrances at Beale Air Force Base where they closed the main entrance for over three hours.
by FRANKLIN LAMB
While the history of the involvement of psychiatrists and psychologists in torture programs for political purposes is, tragically, extensive (see, for example, ‘Political Abuse of Psychiatry: An Historical Overview’ and ‘Psychiatry during the Nazi era: ethical lessons for the modern professional’), the tragedy, with more variations, continues worldwide as you read this article.
An appeal to the conscientious citizens of the world who are against the American attack on Syria:
Egyptian citizens, activists, artists and intellectuals are launching an initiative to gather volunteers to protect the Syrian infrastructure targeted by the impending American attack.
The volunteers will surround targeted buildings, airports and other critical sites, acting as human shields, in an attempt to expose the atrocities of war, and the hypocrisy of the American administration.
Egyptian writer and activist Eyad Harfoush, who started the initiative, is naming it after the Syrian officer Gol Gamal, who volunteered to help the Egyptian army during the 1956 War, sacrificing his life defend the Egyptian borders.
Harfoush is calling conscientious citizens from all over the world to participate in the initiative, to say NO to the American attack on Syria: “Let’s not stand helpless while the American administration launches another war, and destroys another Arab country.”
Earlier this week, the American President Barak Obama said he decided that the US should take military action against Syria in response to an alleged use of chemical weapons. Using the same rhetoric behind the War on Iraq Obama said “We are the USA, we can not and must not turn a blind eye on the massacre of countless civilians in Damascus.” However, he will first seek an authorization from the Congress.
The congress will meet on September 10th, 2013 to make their decision. If they approve the attack, the volunteers will fly to Beirut and travel from there to Syria.
If you want to volunteer to protect the Syrian infra structure, in order not to repeat what happened in Iraq, if you have suggestions for people who could be interested in joining in sign up on Facebook.
Eyad Harfoush, Egyptian Writer
Mohamed Amre Mohamed Adel
Hatem Mohamed Khaled
Dalia Basiouny, Egyptian University Professor
Dina El Ghamry, Egyptian Publisher
Haitham El Banna
A 40-year reunion is being planned for the end of this month in Gainesville, Fla., of the Gainesville 8. Sadly, Richard Nixon won't be able to join them, although his presidential library has just released more audio recordings of his descent into madness -- or what we like to call today: standard government practice.
The Gainesville 8 were eight men, seven of them members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), who planned to nonviolently demonstrate at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami. They were wrongfully prosecuted for planning violence, and they were all acquitted by a jury on August 31, 1973, in a highly publicized trial.
Under the shadow of the chaos that surrounded the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, VVAW took extra steps to avoid violence at the '72 RNC, meeting with the Miami police and with right-wing groups in an effort to prevent conflicts. And yet, prior to the convention, President Nixon's FBI began preemptively arresting VVAW leaders, accusing them of plotting murder and mayhem, and attempting to prevent them from taking part in what they were really plotting: a nonviolent march to the convention, where they would request to meet with the president.
Many VVAW members managed to pull off the march, during the course of which they came upon an activist carrying weapons; they turned him in to the police. Three vets, including Ron Kovic, made it into the convention to pose some uncomfortable questions to some long-distance, stay-at-home war supporters.
Just prior to the arrests of the VVAW members in Florida, burglars working for Nixon had been arrested breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate. When the Watergate burglars were captured, one of them, James McCord, explained that they were investigating a link between the Democrats and the VVAW which they believed was planning trouble at the upcoming Republican National Convention. McCord submitted an affidavit to the Gainesville 8 defense team restating this. The Gainesville 8 defense argued that their prosecution was aimed at strengthening Nixon's thugs' phony case for the Watergate break-in.
One of several infiltrators and would-be provocateurs who made up the fabricated case against the Gainesville 8 was Vincent Hanard. He said that Nixonian henchmen Howard Hunt, Bernard Barker, and Frank Sturgis had asked him to infiltrate VVAW and cause trouble. Another hired trouble-maker, Alfred Baldwin, was employed both monitoring a bug at the Watergate and infiltrating VVAW with a goal of embarrassing Democrats if VVAW demonstrated at the RNC.
Another professional provocateur named Pablo Fernandez was summoned to a grand jury investigating Nixonian henchman Donald Segretti. Fernandez said he'd tried to sell the VVAW guns and been turned down (something the Miami police confirmed), and that he'd spied on the veterans using electronic devices. In fact, he'd tried to record a conversation with VVAW leader Scott Camil, but Fernandez' hidden microphone had failed.
Other of the government's many infiltrators in the VVAW included William Koehler, Karl Becker, Emerson Poe, and William Lemmer. Poe had become best friends with Camil (or so Camil thought). Poe sat in meetings with the defendants right up until he was called as a prosecution witness, thus blowing his cover -- about which the government had previously lied under oath. Lemmer was the star witness, however, alleging wild tales of violent plans. He was himself violent and unstable. Lemmer had already set up a 17 year old to vandalize a building in Arkansas and arranged to have the FBI waiting for him. Lemmer had helped bust six people for marijuana. His specialty was talking people into considering the use of violence. He just wasn't very convincing as a witness.
Scott Camil was the southeast regional coordinator of VVAW. His lawyer's office was broken into during these proceedings, and his file taken. Also, FBI agents with electronic gear were found hiding in a closet of the room that the defendants and lawyers were meeting in during the trial.
"It's not really 11 years till 1984," Camil said in his closing statement (PDF) in court. "It's a lot closer than that."
This sounds odd to us, living in 2013. Technology, if not morality, has made great leaps forward. There's no more need for bungling idiots with brief cases full of spy gear hiding in closets. The government can spy on us without making its presence known. But provocateurs are still employed to manufacture crimes, and much of what was considered illicit under Nixon is treated as acceptable established practice under Obama.
A careful study of the FBI's own data on terrorism in the United States, reported in Trevor Aaronson's book The Terror Factory, finds one organization leading all others in creating terrorist plots in the United States today: the FBI. Peace groups today, including chapters of Veterans For Peace, have been redefined as "security threats" and "potential terrorists." The police have been militarized. Free speech cages are established at great distance from political conventions. Preemptive detentions before demonstrations don't always bother with charges or prosecutions at all. And the corporate-state media has internalized these practices as normal. In 1973, CBS sued for the right to cover the Gainesville 8 trial. Today I think it would be easier to find a media outlet willing to pay money to avoid having to cover something. Chelsea Manning's trial was covered by bloggers.
Camil represented himself in court, and included no apologies, as observers of Chelsea Manning's trial might have expected. Camil's opening statement should be read in full (PDF). He put the government and the war and President Nixon on trial. Here's an excerpt:
"The evidence will show that the seven of us who went to Vietnam spent a total of 111 months over there, received 57 medals and citations, and were all honorably discharged. The evidence will also show that we threw our medals away out of shame, because we knew that what they stood for was wrong. For myself, the throwing away of the medals I once cherished was the cutting of the umbilical cord between myself and the government lies, such as, 'We are helping the people of Vietnam,' 'Our purpose is honorable,' the covering up, such as, 'We are not bombing Cambodia,' 'We are not murdering unarmed civilians,' 'We are not bombing hospitals,' the immorality, such as 'free fire zones,' where all life was fair game, to show the American people back home that we were winning the war by giving them a tool of measurement to judge, and that tool of measurement was the use of dead human beings -- it was called 'body count.'"
On August 31st the jury quickly acquitted all of the defendants. VVAW said at the time:
"The government needed, first of all, to defuse the anti-war issue in the 1972 presidential campaign. What better way to do this was there than by portraying a leading anti-war group as a bunch of vicious killers? With the public outcry caused by the Watergate scandal, a secondary purpose for the trial can be found: an attempt to partially divert attention away from the Watergate affair by fabricating a phony 'threat to national security.' James McCord specifically named VVAW/WSO as the chief villain in this 'threat to national security' and as a justification for their actions."
The Gainesville 8 were John Briggs, Scott Camil, Alton Foss, John Kniffin, Peter Mahoney, Stanley Michelson, William Patterson, and Don Perdue. All but Briggs were Vietnam veterans. Kniffin and Patterson are now deceased.
Four of the eight are gathering for a reunion in Gainesville this month: Peter Mahoney, Don Perdue, Alton Foss, and Scott Camil. Joining them are three of the lawyers who worked on the defense: Larry Turner, Nancy Stearns (Center for Constitutional Rights), and Brady Coleman (Texas National Lawyers Guild). Also coming are jurors from the trial: Donna Ing, and the husband of Jury Foreperson Lois Hensel who is now deceased. Plus members of the defense committee: Nancy Miller Saunders, Nancy Burnap, and Carol Gordon. And John Chambers who spent 40 days in jail for refusing to answer questions from the grand jury. And Richard Hudgens who was subpoenaed to the grand jury. The Oral History Department at the University of Florida will be doing interviews.
I went ahead and did my own interview of Scott Camil. "We came home from Vietnam," he said, "and saw that the government was not telling the truth about the war. We exercised the Constitutional rights that we fought to protect and tried to educate the public to the truth. The government came after us with a vengeance, trampling on our rights in an effort to silence and intimidate us. We stood up to the government and prevailed."
And what has happened since?
"Things have gotten much worse since then -- the illegal activities that brought down President Nixon are now legal. Then the press accepted its role as the 4th estate. Today the press has become a propaganda arm of the National Security State. Today the National Security State wipes its boots on the Constitution. And the public, rather than standing up for the Constitution, cowers and hides its head in the sand.
"Today's whistleblowers trying to educate the public to what is being done in our name with our tax money are under attack as we once were. I hope that they are able to prevail as we once did."
Dear Friends and Bradley Manning Supporters,Thank you for for being one of the 4,140 who signed our petition to serve part of Bradley Manning's sentence. Thanks also to all of you who have told us you are interested in taking further action! This morning, August 21, we were told what sentence Bradley must serve. There are a number of actions planned today and your best source for information on these is http://www.bradleymanning.
orgHere, I will update you on what we have planned for people who signed our petition.
After reading your ideas Kevin Zeese, Malachy Kilbride and I agreed to have Malachy take the lead for the next phase of our plan. He explains the plan,
"We will deliver the petition you signed to appropriate authorities and request a meeting withthe individual(s) in a policy position who can discuss the sentencing of Bradley Manning with us. If they refuse to accept the petitions or meet with us, we will continue our peaceful assembly by sitting down and refusing to leave until they meet with us. If you have never done this we are able to provide you with information about the process and how risking arrest works. If you do not want to risk arrest there will still be a role for you."
We want to draw attention to the fact that many people want to see Bradley Manning pardoned and released from prison.
The date of the action is Wednesday the 28th of AUGUST. We will gather in Washington, DC and go to The White House. Will you join us?
If you cannot make it to Washington, DC but want to be in solidarity with us actions are being planned around the country also. If you would like find out about these actions or to organize an action in your area let us know. Our gatherings will be peaceful, but we will be defiant in our protest to Bradley's prison sentence demanding he be pardoned and released.
If you have questions about this action, like time and specifics, please contact me at email@example.com.
We are doing this to support Bradley but we also want to demonstrate to our government that we support truth tellers, people who promote transparency in government; people who have the courage to report the War Crimes being committed by our country.
Join us. Release Bradley Manning!Charlotte Scot, Malachy Kilbride and Kevin Zeese
IN SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HEARING CONFIRMING JOHN BRENNAN
They are asking the local DC area activist community to come to court as they are able to support them.
They have issued the following statement:
Three of the activists who were arrested at the Feb 7, 2013 Senate Confirmation Hearing of John Brennan as CIA Director are currently on trial in DC. The last trial day is likely to be Monday, Aug 19, or Tuesday at the latest;. Drone Czar, John Brennan, was ultimately confirmed to head the CIA, but our commitment for peace and justice is relentless and "SHALL NOT BE MOVED."
The three co-defendants, David Barrows, Joan Nicholson and Toby Blome are representing themselves pro se, with terrific assistance from their legal advisors, DC attorneys Ann Wilcox and Mark Goldstone. The co-defendants are arguing they did not have specific intent to disrupt the hearing, along with other arguments, Please join us at DC Superior Court, Courtroom 112 (Judge Patricia Broderick). The courthouse is at 500 Indiana Ave., NW, Washington DC.
For details of the CodePink anti-drone action that the defendants were part of, refer to the media links below.
Please hold us all in your thoughts,
Toby Blome, Bay Area CodePink
CodePink speaks out at John Brennan Confirmation Hearing:
5 Anti-Drone Protesters Found Guilty of Trespassing Monday(Aug 12); Federal Judge Won't Allow 'Nuremberg Principles' Defense Regarding Civilian Casualties
SACRAMENTO – Five peace advocates protesting against the Obama Administration's use of killer drones and killings of innocent civilians, including children, around the world were found guilty late Monday in U.S. District Court here of trespassing.
The so-called "Beale 5" were arrested Oct. 30, 2012 at the main gate to Beale AFB, where the Global Hawk drone is based. It flies surveillance for lethal predator drones.
The guilty verdict – handed down by federal judge Carolyn K. Delaney late Monday – means a possible fine and/or up to six months in federal prison. Sentencing is set for Sept. 9.
All the defendants have said they will not pay a fine or accept probation.
The court refused to allow the defense of necessity or the Nuremberg defense, which provides that a citizen is complicit in the killing of civilians – as in the drone strikes – if they do not protest or try to stop that killing by their government.
Cindy Sheehan and about 50 peace advocates from Northern California attended the trial.
The defendants were represented by volunteer lawyers coordinated by the National Lawyers Guild of Sacramento, which said the government also denied defendants a jury trial, even though they could be sentenced to six months in prison.
Those found guilty were Janie Kesselman, Camptonville; Sharon Delgado, Nevada City; Shirley Osgood, Grass Valley; and David and Jan Hartsough, both of San Francisco.
A second anti-drone trial is scheduled later this year for another group of five people arrested at Beale AFB this past April 30.
The common phrase is ‘law and order’ but does the legal system deal with dysfunctional social behavior in ways that keep us safe?
By Linda W. Swanson
At age 69, I recently found spending thirteen hours in a Washington, DC, jail one of the most invigorating experiences I've ever had, and it seems to have already helped to make the world a better place!
The US State Department had hired a company with ties to tar sands profiteers to evaluate the safety of a tar sands pipeline, with predictable results. In the week since my husband and I and fifty-two other people of all ages and backgrounds were arrested for protesting the company involved, the State Department has decided to initiate an inquiry to determine if there was a conflict of interest. Certainly we were not alone in shining a light on this particular corruption, but I'm convinced we made a difference and played a part in that turnaround.
I'm reminded of Pete Seeger's parable of the teaspoons when I think about the contributions each of us makes every time we take a stand against injustice. We may or may not see the balance of justice tip immediately upon the heels of our action, but without each of us doing our part, getting off our couch, and engaging, the weight will not shift in the direction of justice nearly as quickly as it could.
We've now been arrested twice, and I'd like to share our story in hopes that you might decide one day to join us, not only in bending the world toward justice (one teaspoonful of sand at a time!), but also in experiencing a solidarity with others that is unlike any other experience we've had.
Two years ago my husband, Neil, and I decided to join Bill McKibben and 350.org's Tar Sands Action. Every day for two weeks up to 100 people sat in front of the White House demanding that the president reject the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that was proposed to run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Over the two weeks, 1250 people were arrested. We could have participated without being arrested. Many made that choice. But we chose to be numbered among those who were arrested in hopes of adding to the impact of the action. That was a positive, empowering experience that inspired us to participate in the more recent action organized by 350.org and others on Friday, July 26, 2013.
Earlier this summer, when 350.org asked if individuals were willing to risk arrest for (sadly) the same cause, Neil and I immediately signed on. This time there were more unknowns. There would be a single, secret event. There would be no "arrangements" with the police beforehand, since surprise was a key element.
Our action, a part of 350.org's "Summer Heat," had been joined to another action called Walk for our Grandchildren that was also demanding rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. Over the course of the week prior to Friday, July 26, several dozen stalwart folks, ranging from children to folks even older than we, walked all or part of the 100 miles from Camp David to Washington, camping each night along the way. They arrived in time to join us for the mandatory training in nonviolent direct action from 6-10 pm on Thursday evening at St. Stephen's church in DC, and many of them also agreed to be arrested the next day.
As we stood in the dinner line before our training and mentioned that our previous training was only hours after the 2011 earthquake, a man beside us said he had been in training that same day and had been arrested along with us in 2011. We didn't remember each other, but we had found something in common and began forming a new community. By the time we'd eaten and chatted we had several more new acquaintances among the two hundred or so people present.
As the training began we were offered the opportunity to choose the level of risk of arrest we wanted to take the next day. The people choosing to be in Group A would be at greatest risk, because they were going further into the target building. Group B would remain in the building's lobby and were also subject to arrest. Group C would rally outside the building without risking arrest. As people learned more about the three groups, there was some switching, but soon most of us were comfortable with the level of risk we had chosen.
The next part of our training was an actual run-through of the action so we would have the feel of what we would be doing the next day. We were shown a diagram of the target building and told what areas of the church building would represent areas of the target building. We then had two complete run-throughs of our action.
The last hour of our training was a presentation by our attorney from the National Lawyers' Guild about the legal issues facing us. We were given a large amount of information about the law, police practices, supports that would be in place, and the levels of risk. We each filled out a form with our contact information and names of people who could be called in an emergency. We were told repeatedly that while there had been much planning, there was no guarantee that everything would go according to the plans. Neil and I concluded that sufficient supports were in place for us to be comfortable going ahead with being arrested. We joined Group B.
It was close to 10:30 pm when we left the training. We got to bed well after midnight and were up very early. We were to meet at 11:30 Friday morning in DC, and we wanted to allow plenty of time for any traffic problems, parking challenges, and Metro delays.
As we all gathered on Friday morning, a few things did not proceed as we'd been told in our training. We had expected that the A, B, and C groups would be given identifying colored armbands so we would know how to arrange ourselves on the way to the building. There were no armbands, nor was there any mention of them on Friday. When we finally lined up to march from our staging area to the building (a distance of about two blocks), we called out to each other to assemble in the proper order. We also found that a motorcycle officer was stopping traffic so we could safely cross streets, and that made some of us wonder if the police had been informed and were expecting us.
The speed at which we walked along the sidewalk was much faster than I had anticipated. Neil was breaking into a near run to keep up, and he kept motioning for those of us behind him to close ranks. I caught up to him at the door of the building, and he tried to keep the door open for people behind us to enter. He later told me that a policeman had pushed him off of the door and closed it. We still don't know if all those in the B group managed to enter the building.
Fasted in protest of treatment of Guantanamo detainees, in solidarity with those on hunger strike
Elliott Adams of Sharon Springs, New York, a Vietnam War veteran who will have been fasting for 80 days in solidarity with Guantanamo detainees, will end his fast on Sunday, August 4 at the new section of the Masjid As-Salam, 280 Central Ave., Albany, NY (next door to 278 Central Ave., the masjid itself). Veteran Tarak Kauff of Woodstock, who will have fasted for 58 days and also began his fast in solidarity with the Guantanamo prisoners, will also end his fast at the masjid. Both men will eat an iftar meal with mosque members at sundown, around 8:15 p.m., in keeping with the observance of the holy month of Ramadan, during which observant Muslims fast from dawn to sundown. Adams, a non-Muslim, and Kauff, who is Jewish, will speak beforehand at 7:15 p.m. about their reasons for undertaking their fasts, and then answer questions. Dr. Shamshad Ahmad, president of the Masjid As-Salam, will welcome all who attend and will speak about the meaning and traditions of Ramadan, which this year runs from July 8 to August 7.
The media and public are invited to hear the men's presentations at 7:15 p.m. and then to enjoy the iftar meal with the Muslim community.
Adams, former mayor of Sharon Springs, former president of the national organization Veterans for Peace, and a community activist, has long advocated for closure of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He began fasting on May 17 because of his distress over detainees who continue to be held at the prison without charges or trial, and because of their treatment, saying that it goes against everything he fought for during his years in the military. He has limited himself to 300 calories and 3 liters of water a day.
Kauff serves on the board of directors of Veterans for Peace and is one of the founders of War Crimes Times, the organization’s newspaper. He is also one of the original members of Middle East Crisis Response, a group of Hudson Valley residents who support human rights for Palestinians and an end to the U.S.'s aggressive policies in the Middle East. He began his liquid-only fast on June 7 and has been consuming 300 calories a day.
Six other people in the U.S. are still fasting long-term in solidarity with the Guantanamo prisoners and with prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in California, who are on a hunger strike to protest conditions there.
About 10 peace activists in the area have chosen to support the long-term fasters, particularly Adams, through a “rolling fast”: either by fasting once a week for 24 hours or by fasting 24 hours at intermittent times. They have also stood in solidarity with the international movement to close Gitmo by gathering on six different occasions in public demonstrations at various locations in the Capital District, most recently at the corner of Wolf Road and Central Avenue in Colonie.
Among the 166 prisoners still being held at Guantanamo, 86 were cleared for release over a year ago. Over 100 detainees, with no hope of release in sight, began a hunger strike in February of this year; as of this writing, 69 are still on strike, 45 are being force-fed, and 3 are in the hospital. A recent video made by rapper and Hollywood star Mos Def, who volunteered to be force-fed, shows how excruciating the procedure is, and is considered torture by many human rights groups. The British rights organization Reprieve has documented the use of forcible cell extractions of those who refuse food, the use of unnecessary force during the force-feeding process, a new regime of invasive genital searches, and the use of solitary confinement to control prisoners.
On July 23, on the eve of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing about Guantanamo, 26 of the nation’s most respected retired military leaders submitted a letter urging members of the committee to support steps to close the facility.
The event at the Masjid As-Salam is supported and organized by numerous peace and justice groups throughout the Capital District. One of those groups, the Muslim Solidarity Committee, notes that August 4 is the ninth anniversary of the arrests of Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain in 2004, two Masjid As-Salam members who were later convicted as the result of a phony FBI “terrorism” sting based at the masjid, where Aref was imam. Both are serving 15-year sentences in federal prison. Aref has recently submitted a new appeal.
For background information on Guantanamo, see:
U.S. whistleblower and international hero Bradley Manning has just been awarded the 2013 Sean MacBride Peace Award by the International Peace Bureau, itself a former recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, for which Manning is a nominee this year.
A petition supporting Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize has gathered 88,000 signatures, many of them with comments, and is aiming for 100,000 before delivering it to the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo. Anyone can sign and add their comments at ManningNobel.org
The International Peace Bureau (IPB) represents 320 organizations in 70 countries. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910. Over the years, 13 of IPB's officers have been Nobel Peace laureates. See ipb.org
The Sean MacBride prize has been awarded each year since 1992 by the International Peace Bureau, founded in 1892. Previous winners include: Lina Ben Mhenni (Tunisian blogger) and Nawal El-Sadaawi (Egyptian author) - 2012, Jackie Cabasso (USA, 2008), Jayantha Dhanapala (Sri Lanka, 2007) and the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2006). It is named after Sean MacBride, a distinguished Irish statesman who shared the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize, and is given to individuals or organisations for their outstanding work for peace, disarmament and human rights.
The medal is made of "peace bronze," a material created out of disarmed and recycled nuclear weapons systems, by fromwartopeace.com The prize will be formally awarded on Sept. 14 in Stockholm, at a special evening on whistleblowing, which forms part of the triennial gathering of the International Peace Bureau. See brochure at: PDF.
IPB's Co-President Tomas Magnusson said, “IPB believes that among the very highest moral duties of a citizen is to make known war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is within the broad meaning of the Nuremberg Principles enunciated at the end of the Second World War. When Manning revealed to the world the crimes being committed by the U.S. military he did so as an act of obedience to this high moral duty. It is for this reason too that Manning has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In more general terms it is well known that war operations, and especially illegal ones, are frequently conducted under the cover of secrecy. To penetrate this wall of secrecy by revealing information that should be accessible to all is an important contribution to the struggle against war, and acts as a challenge to the military system which dominates both the economy and society in today’s world. IPB believes that whistleblowers are vital in upholding democracies - especially in the area of defense and security. A heavy sentence for Manning would not only be unjust but would also have very negative effects on the right to freedom of expression which the U.S. claims to uphold."
Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire recently wrote: "I have chosen to nominate U.S. Army Pfc Bradley Manning, for I can think of no one more deserving. His incredible disclosure of secret documents to Wikileaks helped end the Iraq War, and may have helped prevent further conflicts elsewhere."
Maguire explains how far-reaching Manning's impact has been: "While there is a legitimate and long-overdue movement for peace and non-violent reform in Syria, the worst acts of violence are being perpetrated by outside groups. Extremist groups from around the world have converged upon Syria, bent on turning this conflict into one of ideological hatred. In recent years this would have spelled an undeniable formula for United States intervention. However, the world has changed in the years since Manning's whistleblowing -- the Middle East especially. In Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, and now Turkey, advocates of democracy have joined together to fight against their own governments' control of information, and used the free-flowing data of social media to help build enormously successful non-violent movements. Some activists of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring have even directly credited Bradley Manning, and the information he disclosed, as an inspiration for their struggles.
". . . If not for whistleblower Bradley Manning, the world still might not know of how U.S. forces committed covert crimes in the name of spreading democracy in Iraq . . . Now, those who would support foreign intervention in the Middle East know that every action would be scrutinized under international human rights law. Clearly, this is for the best. International peacekeepers, as well as experts and civilians inside Syria, are nearly unanimous in their view that United States involvement would only worsen this conflict."
Won't you add your name to the petition now?
Mairead Maguire adds: "Around the world, Manning is hailed as a peacemaker and a hero. His nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize is a reflection of this. Yet at his home in America, Manning stands trial for charges of espionage and 'aiding the enemy'. This should not be considered a refutation of his candidacy -- rather, he is in good company. Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo were each awarded the prize in recent years while imprisoned by their home countries."
LANGLEY, VA – Fifty people protested killer drones at the main gate of the CIA today, and six individuals were arrested. The action was organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR], a group that has been active in challenging U.S. invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries, abolishing torture, closing Guantanamo, and bringing an end to drone warfare.
Members of NCNR previously sent a letter to CIA Director John Brennan requesting a meeting to discuss ending the drone program, and have received no response. Because the group is concerned about continuing deaths from drone strikes, they decided they must act, and they must personally go to the CIA and ask for a meeting. They were joined by Cindy Sheehan, Brian Terrell, and other activists from Code Pink, World Can’t Wait, Veterans for Peace, Answer, and many individuals affiliated with other groups to protest the illegal and immoral CIA killer drone program. Sheehan is the mother of Casey who was killed in 2004 in Iraq. Terrell was recently released from federal prison after serving a 6-month term for a peaceful protest against drones at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
The group walked up to the gates of the CIA with a copy of the letter they had sent to Brennan. When they were denied a meeting, six individuals crossed onto the base. After announcing a mock drone strike, five people lay down on the ground and were covered with pictures of drone victims. The sixth person keened and wailed over the bodies. After 20 minutes, the group rose up and began to walk further onto the base carrying pictures of drone victims. They were arrested, and cited and released on site.
Somewhere around 3500-4500 people have been killed by drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and other places around the globe with no due process. According to a study from Stanford and NYU only 2% of those killed are high-level targets. Over 200 children have been killed in Pakistan alone. According to Malachy Kilbride, NCNR, “These illegal drone strikes are not making people in the U.S. any safer and will only perpetuate the cycle of violence.”
NCNR citizen activists believe they have the right and a Nuremberg responsibility to highlight perceived illegal government operations. Moreover, the Nuremberg trials pointed out that citizens must act to prevent their government from further illegal activities. Ellen Barfield, Vets for Peace, commented on the arrests stating, “Because our government seems incapable of restricting drone weapons, these brave citizens are practicing their Nuremberg responsibilities.”
Those arrested were Joy First, Mt. Horeb, WI; Malachy Kilbride, Arlington, VA; Max Obuszewski, Baltimore, MD; Phil Runkel, Milwaukee, WI; Cindy Sheehan, Vacaville, CA; and Janice Sevre_Duszynska, Lexington, KY.
Anti-Drone Activists Stopped at U.S. Canadian Border due to “Orders of Protection” given by court to Commander of Drone Base
By Charley Bowman
In mid-June, 2013, Western New York Peace Center board member Valerie Niederhoffer was stopped and interrogated for several hours at the U.S.-Canadian border when returning to the US from an afternoon doing Tai Chi in Canada with friendsi.
The U.S. immigration and customs officer entered Val's name into his computer system and discovered Val had an Order of Protection. He then asked her to pull over for an extended interview.
Orders of Protection (restraining orders) are generally given for spousal abuse, but this unique Order of Protection has been given to activists who have been arrested for challenging the U.S. assassin drone policies.
A Cure for War – With Limitations.
by Erin Niemela
Earlier this week I wrote an editorial proposing a 28th constitutional amendment to abolish war. The NSA scandal, I argue, is tied to the more pervasive problem of violent foreign (and domestic) policy, and we’ll continue to see government abuses so long as war and inter-state military violence are the acceptable choices for conflict management. David Swanson, author of the brilliant history, “When the World Outlawed War,” thoughtfully responded to my plea by urging us to recall and reignite the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, an existing international pact renouncing war signed and ratified by the US president and Senate.
I agree with Mr. Swanson that any efforts to end war should point to existing law, and we agree that abolishing war is possible and necessary. However, the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not without its limitations, and a fresh, people-driven constitutional amendment could both address those limitations and offer current, culturally relevant and legally dispositive reinforcement.
Day 121 for Guantanamo Hunger Strikers-Joined in Solidarity by 3 Long Term Fasters in the United States
By Ann Wright
June 7, 2013 marks Day 121 of a hunger strike by at least 103 of the 166 men still imprisoned at Guantanamo. The U.S. military acknowledges that 38 are being forcibly fed twice a day by tubes snaked through their noses. Force feeding is condemned by the American Medical Association and the United Nations.
The vast majority of the 166 men have been held for more than 11 years without any charge. 86 have been cleared for release for years. http://witnesstorture.tumblr.
Of course, old people should know these things too, and some small percentage does know them, but energy seems better invested in trying to teach them to young people who have less to unlearn in the process.
1. Obedience is extremely dangerous.
This seems like it must be either wrong or misleadingly incomplete. And that would be true if we were talking about children. If a two-year-old is about to run in front of a car, please do yell "stop!" and hope for as much obedience as possible.
But I'm talking to young people, not children.
When you grow up, your obedience should always be conditional. If a master chef appears to be instructing you to prepare a revoltingly bad dinner but wants you to obey his or her instructions on faith, you might very well choose to do so, considering the risk to be tolerable. If, however, the chef tells you to chop off your little finger, and you do it, that will be a sure sign that you've got an obedience problem.
This is not a trivial or comical danger. The majority of volunteers in experiments are willing to inflict severe pain or death on other human beings when a scientist tells them to do so for the good of science. Watch this video of such an experiment.
Had the actor in this experiment who pretended to be a scientist told the participants to cut off their little fingers, I bet they wouldn't have done it. But they were willing to do far worse to someone else. The good old Golden Rule is a counter to this deficiency, but so is resistance to blind obedience. Most suffering in the world is not created by independent individuals, but by large numbers of people obeying when they should be resisting.
We should think about how not to put ourselves in positions in which we are expected to blindly obey. It is possible to find jobs that don't include that unhealthy expectation. And we should prepare ourselves to refuse immoral instructions whenever we receive them. As we'll see below, we all do receive them all the time.
2. People in power manipulate us into acceptance
Several years ago a lot of people were protesting the U.S. war in Iraq. The president and most of Congress and most of the big media outlets were busy giving out the impression that such protests were ignored or even counter-productive. But former president George W. Bush's memoirs recall the Republican Senate Majority Leader secretly telling him the pressure was becoming too great and they'd need to end the war. Bush signed an agreement with the government of Iraq to leave in three years.
In 1961 the USSR was withdrawing from a moratorium on nuclear testing. A protest at the White House urged President Kennedy not to follow suit. Posters read "Kennedy, Don't Mimic the Russians!" One protester recalled their action for decades as having been pointless and futile, until he found an oral history interview with Adrian Fisher, deputy director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Fisher said that Kennedy had delayed resuming testing because of the protest.
A delay in a policy we oppose is not as good as a permanent ban, but if those protesters had known they were being listened to they would have come back day after day and brought their friends and possibly achieved that permanent ban. That they imagined they weren't being listened to appears ridiculous if you read enough history. People are always listened to, but those in power go to great lengths to give the impression of not paying any serious attention.
Lawrence Wittner interviewed Robert "Bud" McFarlane, President Ronald Reagan's former national security advisor, asking him whether the White House had paid much attention to protests demanding a "freeze" in nuclear weapons building. "Other administration officials had claimed that they had barely noticed the nuclear freeze movement," Wittner said. "But when I asked McFarlane about it, he lit up and began outlining a massive administration campaign to counter and discredit the freeze -- one that he had directed . . . . A month later, I interviewed Edwin Meese, a top White House staffer and U.S. attorney general during the Reagan administration. When I asked him about the administration's response to the freeze campaign, he followed the usual line by saying that there was little official notice taken of it. In response, I recounted what McFarlane had revealed. A sheepish grin now spread across this former government official's face, and I knew that I had caught him. 'If Bud says that,' he remarked tactfully, 'it must be true.'"
It's funny: even when protesting government lies or government secrecy, people tend to fall for the lie that the government is ignoring you. Yet, in 2011, when a relatively tiny movement began to take to the streets under the banner of "Occupy," the government rolled out a massive effort of infiltration, eavesdropping, harassment, brutality, and propaganda -- while, of course, claiming to have noticed nothing and done nothing about something so unworthy of notice.
Those in power don't restrict themselves to directing you toward inaction. They also work on moving you toward doing lots of things that seem effective but aren't. The way to keep the nation safe, they say, is to go shopping! Or lobby for this watered-down pathetic piece of legislation! Or devote all your activist energy to election campaigning, and then go home and collapse in exhaustion as soon as the election is over -- exactly when you should be gearing up to demand actions out of whoever won the election. These activities that have little impact are depicted as serious and effective, while activities that historically have had tremendous real impact (organizing, educating, demonstrating, protesting, lobbying, heckling, shaming, nonviolently resisting, producing art and entertainment, creating alternative structures) are depicted as disreputable and ineffective and lacking in seriousness.
Of course, being active is much more fun than not. Of course, the influence you have is always possible even if undetected (you might inspire a child who goes on to do great things years later, or slightly win over an opponent who takes a few more years to see the light). Of course, we have a moral duty to do everything we can regardless of the ease of success. But I'm convinced we'd see a lot more activism if people knew how much they are listened to. So tell them! And let's remember to keep telling ourselves.
3. Doing nothing is obeying a deadly order
Imagine writing a story about a village that faces possible destruction, and for the most part the people don't do anything to prevent it.
That's not how stories are written.
That's the world we live in and fail to recognize.
We are being instructed to sit at a desk and zap the earth to death, and we're compliantly zapping away. Only the zapping doesn't look like zapping, it looks like living. We work and eat and sleep and play and garden and buy junk at the store and watch movies and go to baseball games and read books and make love, and we don't imagine we can possibly be destroying a planet. What are we, the Death Star?
But a sin of omission is morally and effectively equivalent to a sin of commission. We need to be saving the earth and we're not doing so. We're allowing global warming and other major environmental destruction to roll ahead. We're allowing militarization and warmaking to advance. We're watching the concentration of wealth. We see the division of society into castes. We know we're building prisons and drones and highways and pipelines while closing schools and condemning our grandparents to poverty. We are aware that we're funding multi-billionaires with our hard work while fueling mass suffering, bitterness, rage, frustration, and violence.
We see these worsening cycles and we sit still.
Don't sit still.
Sitting still is mass-murder.
Don't obey anyone who tells you to sit still.
Don't search for a leader.
Don't sell your conscience to a group or a slogan or a political party.
Don't listen to me unless something I say makes sense.
Solidarity Statement with the People of Turkey from WRL's Facing Tear Gas Campaign
Over the past several days, Turkey has seen some of its largest mass mobilizations in years. Protesters are pouring into Taksim Square, Gezi Park, and other public spaces throughout the country in the thousands to reject neoliberalism and government-backed urban gentrification. As they brave vomit-inducing tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and live ammunition, it is clear that the people of Turkey are demanding much more than simply the conservation of Istanbul’s precious remaining green space. Rather, what we are witnessing in Turkey is a broad movement of people from various classes, ages, religious sects, and political backgrounds calling for real democracy. It is also imperative to contextualize this recent uprising as a continuation of many struggles that Turkish citizens have undertaken for years around economic justice, rights of minorities (including the Kurdish people), and resistance to mandatory military service.
Since 2010, the uprisings in the Arab world catalyzed a chain reaction of revolutionary change across the globe that shook dictatorships and repressive governments at their core. Turkey is no exception to this, and as members of the Facing Tear Gas Campaign, we are moved and inspired by this growing new movement.
However, we have also borne witness to immense amounts of military and police attacks on nonviolent protestors, including the use of tear gas and related chemical weapons as tools of war on protest, free speech, and democratic movements. In Istanbul, there is evidence of tear gas coming from at least two U.S. companies— Defense Technology (Casper, WY) and Nonlethal Technologies (Homer, PA)— and one Brazilian company, Condor Non-Lethal Technologies (Rio de Janeiro). Together, these companies manufacture the tear gas used to hurt people and repress popular movements in Egypt, Bahrain, Palestine, the United States, Greece, Canada, and now Turkey. Additionally, there are reports of Turkish law enforcement directly shooting civilians with tear gas canisters, which can cause injury or death.
If you are in Turkey (or know people who are), please contribute your experience toward our collective effort to end the use of tear gas. Please save and photograph any gas canisters or incidents of their use, and let our campaign know. This is the best way to expose the companies providing chemical weapons to the Turkish military and police. Share your story on our Facing Tear Gas Tumblr, follow us on Twitter @resistwar, tweet using the hashtags #teargas or #chemicalgas, or email us at facingteargas@warresisters.
The Facing Tear Gas Campaign salutes the peoples of Turkey and the world in solidarity with this growing movement. As the protests grow across various cities across Turkey, including at the capital Ankara, Izmir, Adana, Diyarbakir and beyond, the slogan “Taksim is everywhere, resistance is everywhere” resonates across the globe. Indeed, Taksim reminds us that another world is on its way, one free of weapons, militarism, and state violence, and toward a truly dignified freedom.
To my friends who live outside of Turkey:
I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.
Four days ago a group of people who did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees. Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.
They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines.
No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.
But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park.
In the evening the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.
Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.
They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:
The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.
They gathered and marched. Police chased them with pepper spray and tear gas and drove their tanks over people who offered the police food in return. Two young people were run over by the tanks and were killed. Another young woman, a friend of mine, was hit in the head by one of the incoming tear gas canisters. The police were shooting them straight into the crowd. After a three hour operation she is still in Intensive Care Unit and in very critical condition. As I write this we don’t know if she is going to make it. This blog is dedicated to her.
These people are my friends. They are my students, my relatives. They have no «hidden agenda» as the state likes to say. Their agenda is out there. It is very clear. The whole country is being sold to corporations by the government, for the construction of malls, luxury condominiums, freeways, dams and nuclear plants. The government is looking for (and creating when necessary) any excuse to attack Syria against its people’s will.
On top of all that, the government control over its people’s personal lives has become unbearable as of late. The state, under its conservative agenda passed many laws and regulations concerning abortion, cesarean birth, sale and use of alcohol and even the color of lipstick worn by the airline stewardesses.
People who are marching to the center of Istanbul are demanding their right to live freely and receive justice, protection and respect from the State. They demand to be involved in the decision-making processes about the city they live in.
What they have received instead is excessive force and enormous amounts of tear gas shot straight into their faces. Three people lost their eyes.
Yet they still march. Hundred of thousands join them. Couple of more thousand passed the Bosporus Bridge on foot to support the people of Taksim.
No newspaper or TV channel was there to report the events. They were busy with broadcasting news about Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.
Police kept chasing people and spraying them with pepper spray to an extent that stray dogs and cats were poisoned and died by it.
Schools, hospitals and even 5 star hotels around Taksim Square opened their doors to the injured. Doctors filled the classrooms and hotel rooms to provide first aid. Some police officers refused to spray innocent people with tear gas and quit their jobs. Around the square they placed jammers to prevent internet connection and 3g networks were blocked. Residents and businesses in the area provided free wireless network for the people on the streets. Restaurants offered food and water for free.
People in Ankara and İzmir gathered on the streets to support the resistance in Istanbul.
Mainstream media kept showing Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.
I am writing this letter so that you know what is going on in Istanbul. Mass media will not tell you any of this. Not in my country at least. Please post as many as articles as you see on the Internet and spread the word.
As I was posting articles that explained what is happening in Istanbul on my Facebook page last night someone asked me the following question:
«What are you hoping to gain by complaining about our country to foreigners?»
This blog is my answer to her.
By so called «complaining» about my country I am hoping to gain:
Freedom of expression and speech,
Respect for human rights,
Control over the decisions I make concerning my on my body,
The right to legally congregate in any part of the city without being considered a terrorist.
But most of all by spreading the word to you, my friends who live in other parts of the world, I am hoping to get your awareness, support and help!
Please spread the word and share this blog.
For futher info and things you can do for help please see Amnesty International’s Call for Urgent Help
Nathaniel Batchelder is a Vietnam veteran and has been director of the Peace House Oklahoma City since 1990 – a center for public education on justice, peace and environmental issues.
Natan Blanc (with thanks to Yesh Gvul)This morning, the Israeli military's Exemption Committee declared Israeli conscientious objector Natan Blanc unfit for duty, six months after he initially reported to the induction centre and declared his refusal.
You can send an email to Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon, welcoming the fact that Natan will no longer be imprisoned, but urging him to ensure that in future COs are not treated similarly here: http://wri-irg.org/node/21852
Natan's prison sentences have been 10, 20, 14, 14, 20, 18, 20, 14, 20 and 28 days long respectively. This exemption follows his second appeal for exemption. His first was refused.
Hear Natan speak about why he refuses to join the Israeli military here.
You can also read Natan's refusal declaration in full here.
In April, Israeli CO group New Profile put out a statement alongside No to Compulsory Military Service in Egypt in support of Natan as well as Eyptian COs. The statement is here: Joint Statement: Freedom to Conscientious Objectors in the Middle East. In the photo you can see Natan holding photos of these Egyptian COs.
Continue supporting for COs
Please write to Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon, calling upon him to ensure that COs in future do not endure the imprisonments and repeated punishments. You can do so here.
Please also consider sharing the CO-Alert sign up with your friends and contacts. COs around the world continue to be persecuted, and CO-Alerts are a unique way of raising awareness of these cases. Visit this page to be added to subscribe: http://lists.wri-irg.org/
War Resisters' International